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Outcry over surge in food prices

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MASERU – OPPOSITION parties in parliament this week urged the government to introduce subsidies after a surge in the cost of basic foodstuffs.

They said the cost of living in Lesotho is steadily becoming unbearable.

An 80kg bag of mealie-meal now costs a staggering M609, up from M500 last month while a 50kg bag of maize-meal now costs M410, up from M380.

A 25kg bag of maize-meal now costs M225, up from M190 while a 12.5kg bag has moved from M120 to M128.

The Democratic Congress (DC) leader Mathibeli Mokhothu, who is also the Leader of Opposition in parliament, tweeted on his official account urging the government to intervene.

“Could the government of the rich people be seen sympathizing with the poor people,” Mokhothu said, referring to the government of the Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) which is led by the country’s business tycoons.

Mokhothu said apart from the high food and fuel prices coupled with high students’ fees, life keeps on getting harder for the poor.

The Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, pleaded with the government to subsidize the cost of food to cushion the poor.

He wrote a letter to the Speaker of Parliament Tlohang Sekhamane on Monday asking him to stop all business in parliament and focus on the issue of soaring prices.

Adv Rakuoane argued that there has been a hike in the price of maize-meal price since the harvest season.

He said this is abnormal because maize-meal prices usually go down during the harvesting season.

He said the government has not yet published its strategies or declared a state of emergency.

Adv Rakuoane said the continuing war between Ukraine and Russia seems to be worsening the situation that was already volatile.

“Hunger is spreading to the extent that people go to sleep and wake up without anything in their stomachs,” he said.

The Basotho Action Party (BAP) leader Professor Nqosa Mahao told a press conference on Tuesday that the price hikes are getting out of hand.

He called on the government to intervene. He said poor people’s lives are getting harder and harder every time.

Prof Mahao said the price hikes would affect Basotho negatively because paraffin and other essentials used by poor people have also gone up.

He said the staple food of Basotho is now becoming expensive to the extent that some people cannot afford it.

“The cost will be heavier on Basotho as the village shops would want to add their transportation costs,” Prof Mahao said.

He said taxi operators were likely to demand a fare hike soon.

Prof Mahao said even the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) has increased its prime lending interest rate making it harder for people to take loans.

The prime lending interest rate has ballooned from seven percent to 10.5 percent, meaning the commercial banks will also raise their interest rate which is estimated to be at 17 percent.

Both Blue Ribbon Foods, the country’s largest bakery, and Lesotho Flour Mills have already increased prices with effect from December 1.

In their new price lists, Blue Ribbon Foods said they will add M1 to all their bread range, taking the price of a loaf of bread to M15 in villages outside the city and M14 within Maseru.

In hard-to-reach rural areas a loaf of bread is likely to cost about M18.

The two companies said the industry is facing relentless challenges relating to raw material availability and unprecedented inflation.

The Lesotho Flour Mills’ new prices have been effective from November 14.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Limpho Tau said they are looking into the matter. Finance Minister Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane is set to present her mid-term budget tomorrow.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Short courses for ex-mineworkers

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THE Lesotho Diamond Academy has introduced mining short courses, particularly to ex-mineworkers, to help them re-enter the mining sector.
The Essential Introductory Courses, which will run for two weeks, will start from June this year. The courses are meant particularly for people who worked in mines in South Africa.

The Academy’s CEO, Relebohile Molefe, unveiled the new courses during the graduation of 18 students last week, four of whom are now armed with Cutting and Polishing certificates while 14 graduated with Rough Diamond Evaluation certificates.

The new courses include the Essential Certificate in Diamond Grading and the Essential Certificate in Diamond Evaluation.

“The decision to offer these courses aligns with the Academy’s dedication to bridge the gap and ensure that individuals with valuable experience can seamlessly reintegrate into the diamond and jewelry industry,” Molefe said.

“By providing short courses, the academy does not only impart essential skills but also contributes to the sector’s growth by reactivating experienced individuals who had lost access to the industry due to no formal documents showing their experience in the industry,’’ she said.

During the graduation celebration, Molefe also unveiled a new sponsorship programme for various courses.

One outstanding student previously sponsored, who demonstrated exceptional proficiency in Rough Diamond Evaluation, was granted a fully funded bursary to further his studies into Advanced Certificate in Round Diamond Brilliantering.

In pursuit of its multifaceted objectives, one of which is to serve as a catalyst for employers in the diamond and jewelry sector to devise skills development strategies, the Academy is set to sponsor four additional students in the upcoming intake starting from February 15.

Two of these bursaries will afford a 30 percent discount on overall fees for two students progressing from Cutting and Polishing to advanced studies in Rough Diamond Evaluation.

Two will be fully funded bursaries to study for a Certificate in Diamond Cutting and Polishing.

Additionally, the institution will extend two fully funded bursaries to the public, fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities.

The Academy says it plans to announce the search for two deserving Basotho individuals on its social media pages and website.

“Importantly, the bursary programme bears no age restrictions, reflecting a commitment to fairness and inclusiveness, ensuring that opportunities are accessible to all, irrespective of age,” it says in a statement.

The Academy says it seeks “to be a dynamic force in shaping the industry, not just within national borders, but also on regional and international platforms”.

“The emphasis on competitiveness within these markets underscores the institution’s commitment to producing graduates who are not only proficient but also globally competitive,” the statement reads.

“The recent graduation ceremony symbolises a milestone in the Academy’s journey. The success of its students is a testament to the quality of education and the foresight embedded in the curriculum.”

The Academy says its decision to sponsor further education for outstanding performers reflects a belief in nurturing talent and contributing to the continuous improvement of the diamond industry.

The Lesotho Diamond Academy was founded by the late Mpalipali Molefe, a prominent educator, diamond trader and an MP, who recognised the imperative to elevate professionalism in the diamond industry.

Staff Reporter

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Bank hands over uniforms to students

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THE Lesotho Post Bank donated uniforms to students at Leqele High School worth a staggering M60 000 as part of its Back-To-School campaign.
The bank said it did this “to keep needy children in school and to promote their education”.

A teacher at the school, Tšepo Semethe, said the uniforms will likely motivate the students to work harder in their studies.

Semethe insisted on giving the bank the names of the students so that it could check their performance at the end of the year.

“At Leqele High School, we work very hard because what we want is excellence above all. To us, hard work pays,” he said.

The bank’s Chief Risk Officer, Molefi Khama, said they are getting old, they will soon retire and Lesotho Post Bank will be in the hands of these children.

He pleaded with the students to work harder.

“This is why we decided to come here to support the students in their education so that when coming to school, they should be confident,” Khama said.

“We are watching you and waiting on you,” he said.

The school’s head prefect, Tholoana Monatsi, said from now on, “no student will be identified by what they wear”.

“(Lesotho) Post Bank made us one and we thank them for that because what we wear cannot stand before our education. We indeed thank you and forever you will hold special places in our hearts,” she said.

A parent, ’Marorisang Latela, said they were very grateful for the gift from Lesotho Post Bank adding that they must also donate to other schools.

Minister of Trade, Mokethi Shelile, promised to go back to the school to discuss how the children could learn in comfortable surroundings.

Relebohile Tšepe

 

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Mamello School of Special Needs wins prize

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MAMELLO School of Special Needs is the first-place winner of Standard Lesotho Bank’s Scaled-Up Pitching Den held at Maseru Avani on Tuesday.
The school has secured a grand prize for an all-expenses-paid trip to Kenya to participate as a finalist representing Lesotho at the Standard Bank Africa Awards.

The school, pioneered in 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic through Zoom classes, deals with children who live with conditions such as autism, attachment disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) dyslexia, Down syndrome and slow learners.


STKTM Solutions claimed the second-place spot, receiving a commendable M10 000, while Masia Farms secured third place and a M5 000 prize.


Pheello Masia of Masia Farms, thanked Standard Lesotho Bank for backing their vision and that of other Basotho entrepreneurs.


He acknowledged that the bank’s faith in their endeavours serves as a source of inspiration, propelling them to work harder and foster growth within the community.


The event, aimed at fortifying support and fostering regional integration for Basotho entrepreneurs across the African continent, showcased the bank’s commitment to driving the growth of Lesotho.


Malatola Phothane, Head of Enterprise Banking at Standard Lesotho Bank, set the tone in his welcoming remarks.


“As Standard Lesotho Bank, through business and commercial banking, we strive to turn possibilities into opportunities,” Phothane said.


“Lesotho is our home, and we drive her growth,” he said.


His words resonated with the bank’s dedication to nurturing local talent and fostering economic development.


Phothane acknowledged the eight finalists, commending them for their resilience and passion for their businesses.


He emphasised how each entrepreneur had stood their ground, displaying knowledge and unwavering commitment.


The recognition not only highlighted the achievements of the finalists but also underscored the bank’s role in recognising and uplifting the entrepreneurial spirit within the community.


Aliciah Motšoane, founder of Prestige Furnitures and Sentebale Gap Funeral Services, played a significant role at the event as a motivational speaker, sharing her entrepreneurial journey filled with challenges and triumphs.


She recounted her humble beginnings when she was selling bread in high school, leading to the establishment of Prestige Furnitures in 1998.


Despite facing a significant setback after her shop was burnt down during the riots and incurring a loss of M5 million, Motšoane never gave up.


She said business is always a demanding endeavour adding that it needs hard work and a unique mindset.


She urged entrepreneurs to embrace their roots, seek inspiration, and persevere through challenges.


The keynote speaker, the bank’s Head of Business and Commercial Clients, Keketso Makara, said the bank is committed to foster a thriving business environment, highlighting the pivotal role of youth collaboration across diverse economic sectors.


Makara said their mandate aims to empower youths in steering the private sector towards growth, contributing to economic diversification.


Makara urged the eight finalists to actively involve bankers in refining their proposals for maximum impact on economic stimulation and sustainable development.


The bank said the Scaled-Up Pitching Den not only served as a stage for entrepreneurs to present their ventures but also acted as a driving force for networking, collaboration, and collective empowerment.

Staff Reporter

 

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